BEIJING (Xinhua) – Primary school students in China’s remote mountainous areas are enjoying better education thanks to the country’s supportive policies in recent years. Here is a glimpse of the measures to improve learning and provide better facilities:
FREE SCHOOL MEALS
Zhang Zhanliang is not only a principal but also a “cook”.
In 2018, Zhang was appointed the principal of the Huangni Primary School in the village of Huangni, east China’s Jiangxi Province. The school has just over 20 students.
There was no canteen and many students had to bring lunch boxes as they lived far from school. Meals often became cold.
To let students have hot meals, Zhang decided to make lunch himself on the playground. “I was afraid of rainy days because we could not cook if it rained,” he said. “My biggest wish at the time was to have a kitchen.”
Zhang’s dream was realised in 2019 after the local education department allocated a special fund of over CNY200,000 (about USD30,000) to build a kitchen for the school. Gas stoves and ovens donated by companies were also sent to the 38-square-metre kitchen. So far, the local education department has appropriated more than CNY200,000 to the school to cover the meal.
“Lunchtime is one of the happiest times of the day for students,” said Zhang.
Statistics from the Ministry of Education show China’s total investment in education including free meals and improving school facilities has increased by more than eight per cent annually in the past three years.
CLASSES GO CLOUD
As the new semester began in September, students in the Third Wanquan Primary School in Lanping County, situated deep inside a valley in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, had a special class.
About 50 grade-three students had their first online class on folk arts, taught by a teacher from a Beijing elementary school, thousands of kilometres from the county.
After the bell rang, students sang a local song to greet their teacher in Beijing. “It never occurred to me that a teacher in Beijing could teach us,” said He Shujie, a grade-three student. The online class just epitomises the digitalisation of educational infrastructure in China. In 2019, there were 11.4 computers for every 100 students in Chinese primary schools, and 68.7 per cent of these schools had Internet access.
NO ONE LEFT BEHIND
Ahead of classes every morning, Geng Qin, a teacher in the Yukakbzichi Primary School, disinfects every corner of the classroom and prepares masks to be handed out to students. The school, located in the city of Aksu, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, suspended classes during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Before the school re-opened in September, teachers called every student to inquire about their health. The school also prepared sufficient epidemic prevention materials to ensure the safety of students after classes resumed. “We will never let a child drop out of school because of the epidemic,” said Headmaster Wang Le.
LEARNING OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
Extracurricular activities are emphasised as part of the curriculum at the Fanjia Primary School in the city of Guangyuan, southwest China’s Sichuan Province.
Planting vegetables and visiting cultural relics, teachers lead 55 students, most of whom are left-behind children or from impoverished households, to learn something new outside the classroom every Wednesday.
On a plot of farmland in front of the school, several “automatic drip irrigation devices” created by students from plastic cans are being used.
Extracurricular activities, as an extension of classroom learning, can better shape students’ personality. It can also improve their ability to analyse and solve problems, said Principal Zhang Pingyuan of the primary school.
In 2018, about 220,000 teachers, including about 40,000 specialised in music, sports, arts, science, and information technology, were added to the country’s force of educators for the comprehensive development of students.